Q: I tripped on a sidewalk manhole cover and fractured my hip. Who can I sue?
A: There are thousands of manhole covers, vaults, grates, access panels, junctions boxes, vents and other hardware impeded in our NYC sidewalks. Some in fine repair….others not.
In general, the owner of property that borders the sidewalk must maintain the sidewalk is a reasonably safe condition. However, when it comes to sidewalk hardware the owner of a manhole cover, grate, vault etc. is responsible to monitor its condition and the surrounding sidewalk extending 12 inches from its perimeter. In addition, the owner must replace or repair its defective cover or grate, and repair “any defective street condition” within that 12 inch area. [NOTE: While the hardware must be “flush with the surrounding street surface,” they only have to be replaced or adjusted if “greater than 1/2 inch above or below the street surface.”]
To properly identify the owner of a specific grate, access cover, vault, vent or junction box typically requires an experienced investigator. However, manhole covers are from cast iron molds with the marking of the owner emblazoned on its surface. The manhole cover which says, “ConEdison” is easy, but many require translation [DWS=Dept of Water Supply, BS=Bureau of Sewers, QMT=Queens Midtown Tunnel…] and there are dozens more.
Who can I sue? Certainly the owner of the manhole cover if a defect exists and perhaps the abutting property owner who may have caused and/or contributed to the defective condition. Our best advice, contact an experienced personal injury attorney as quickly as possible in order to insure that the responsible parties are identified, your claim is timely filed and your rights are fully protected.